for instrumental ensemble and guttural voice choir

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THE NIGHTMARE LAKE is an early work based on a poem by Lovecraft sharing the same name as this composition. The score is originally composed for voice and a small instrumental ensemble. The musical material for the instruments was taken from a four part round called 'Distand ZAN' [reference code 8909-ZAN], using as its source material the opening phrases to the poem. The voices, however, mostly make guttural sounds, groans and screams designed to imitate the ghastly horror in the poem.

The Nightmare Lake

There is a lake in distant Zan,
Beyond the wonted haunts of man,
Where broods alone in hideous state
A spirit dead and desolate.
A spirit ancient and unholy,
Heavy with fearsome melancholy,
Which from the waters dull and dense
Draws vapors cursed with pestilence.
Around the banks a mire of clay,
Crawl things offensive in decay,
And curious birds that reach the shore
Are seen by mortals nevermore.
Here shines by day the searing sun
On glassy wastes beheld by none,
And here by night pale moon beams flow
Into the deeps that yawn below.
In nightmares only it is told
What scenes beneath those beams unfold;
What scenes, too old for human sight,
Lie sunken there in endless night;
For in those depths there only pace
The shadows of a voiceless race.
One midnight, redolent of ill,
I saw that lake, asleep and still;
While in the lurid sky there rode
A gibbous moon that glow'd and glow'd.
I saw the stretching marshy shore
And the foul things those marshes bore:
Lizards and snakes convuls'd and dying;
Ravens and vampires putrefying;
All these and hov'ring o'er the dead,
Narcophagi that on them fed.
And as the dreadful moon climbed high,
Fright'ning the stars from out the sky,
I saw the lake's dull waters glow
Till sunken things appeared below.
There shown unnumbered fathoms down,
The towers of a forgotten town;
The tarnished domes and mossy walls;
Weed tangles spires and empty halls;
Deserted fanes and vaults of dread,
And streets of gold uncoveted.
These I beheld and saw beside
A horde of shapeless shadows glide;
A noxious horde which to my glance
Seem'd moving in a hideous dance
Round slimy sepulchres that lay
Beside a never travelled way.
Straight from the tombs a heaving rose
That vex'd the waters' dull repose,
While lethal shades of upper space
Howl'd at the moon's sardonic face.
Then sank the lake within its bed,
Sucked down to caverns of the dead,
Till from the reeking new-stript earth
Curl'd fetid fumes of noisome birth.
About the city, nigh uncover'd,
The monstrous dancing shadows hover'd,
When lo! There oped with sudden stir
The portal of each sepulchre!
No ear may learn; no tongue may tell
What nameless horror then befell.
I see that lake - that moon agrin -
That city and the things within -
Waking, I pray that on that shore
The nightmare lake may sink no more !

-H.P. Lovecraft




May 2008 Nachtschimmen Music-Theatre-Language Night Shades, Ghent (Belgium)
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Last modified:
May 30, 2008